Switzerland 05-06: Schaffhausen/Rheinfalls

This was one of those trips that had been on my list for a while and was just waiting for a good day to do it. Today seemed like a good day. So I got my train direct to Winterthur and wandered around there for half an hour before getting the train on to Schaffhausen. Winterthur was another place I wanted to see, and it was very nice and very pretty but it seems its main attraction is art museums, so I think I saw everything else.
The first thing I wanted to do in Schaffhausen was to see the Rheinfalls. I knew which bus I had to get and in which direction but I have never been able to work bus ticket machines in German and that’s even harder when there are no machines and you have to buy them from the driver.

I asked if he spoke French, he apparently didn’t and he sold me a ticket in a mixture of mimes and pointing. “Rheinfalls?” “Si,” I replied, forgetting French, English and German and reverting to Spanish.
He was a lovely driver. When we got to Neuhausen, a lot of tourists got off the bus and stood around outside Migros looking lost. He immediately got off the bus and even though he was speaking German, I understood that to get to the falls, we had to follow the yellow footprints on the pavement.

There isn’t all that much I can say about the falls, apart from put in a load of pictures. The water falls a grand distance of…. 23 metres, so i assume, when the guidebook says they’re the highest in Europe, that they’re the ones at the highest altitude, which surprises me a bit. They’re very vicious though. Still photos really can’t do justice to this bubbling, foaming, splashing water, so much of it!
I walked across to the other side of the big pool, where there was the usual sort of tourist stuff, restaurants, souvenir shops, benches, and sat down on a bench to eat my bread and butter and enjoy the view:
Then I went on to Schloss Wörth, which turns out not to be a castle these days, but another restaurant and the launch point for the boats that take the brave people right to the middle of the waterfalls.

Look at that big lumps of rock in the middle:
There are people on top of it. And underneath both those lumps of rock are massive leaping waves which are undercutting the platforms in a very scary way. The rock will still be ok for a few years, but those boats look scary. They bob up and down as if there’s a sea monster underneath and they go right into the big waves. I would have liked to go on them and I would have done, but they look scary.

Then I decided it was time to go back to Schaffhausen. I walked back up to the main street, following the footprints back, only to find, when the bus arrived, it was the same bus and the same man. I’d checked my guidebook and knew what to say, although pronouncing it would be harder, but when I got on the bus, he recognised me and smiled and I just said “Bahnhof” which was easy enough.

Schaffhausen is very pretty. It looks old and it looks all nicely decorated and the shops are quite well hidden. Not in all cases, but quite often. There were a lot of people there, but it didn’t have the same tourist feel as somewhere like Zurich or Lausanne.
And finally:

Because no trip is complete without the river photo.

Switzerland 05-06: Spiez

This may have been a mistake. I left after labo and got a train to Bern at just after 4pm. I stopped off in Thun on the way to get some slightly less cloudy photos and was on my way by 6. But there were problems with the railway and I had to get a bus. A packed bus, all the way to Spiez. There are a lot of people in Thun. It seems like such a pretty, quiet place, but this is rush hour:
This was my first view of Spiez itself:
It’s another place that is just so beautiful. I think Lake Thun and around is my favourite place in this entire country. There’s that lake, surrounded by mountains, and over it all, the three giants.

I walked down to the old town, through some pretty streets:
Near the bottom of the hill, I found a swimming pool and it just looked like the most incredible setting for a pool. I was desperate to swim in it, but I couldn’t.
At the bottom was a small harbour, with lots of boats and the church overlooking the lot.
I spent most of my short time in Spiez taking photos of the mountains and the lake:

And of the zebra crossing going the wrong way.

By now, the sun was getting lower, so I headed back, completely unaware…
I got my bus back to Thun. No problem. I got the train from Thun to Bern. No problem.
I arrived in Bern at 8.55. The next train back to Neuchatel was 9.39. Instead of hanging around for three quarters of an hour, I wondered about getting a train via Biel. I didn’t. Probably I should have done.
I went to Macdonalds and got some fries. That was a good way to kill some time, then I went back to platform 13.
According to all the signs on the platform, that train was going to Neuchatel. But once I got inside, it only mentioned Bumpliz Nord, Gummenen and Kerzers. I was worried, but I thought “In an hour’s time, I’ll know one way or the other”.
This is how the rest of my night proceeded.
9.55 – Arrived in Gummenen. We were tipped off the train and told that there were works and we’d have to get a replacement bus.
10.25 – Still no sign of the bus.
I was sitting on the steps at the bottom of a station I’d never heard of, with no clearer idea of where I was than “somewhere between Bern and Neuchatel”, in the middle of the countryside, where the only sounds were people muttering about the lack of bus, crickets chirping and our train, still sitting at the platform above us. Every now and then someone would go back to the station to ask when the bus was coming, but they didn’t seem to ever come back.
Finally, a station worker came out. He said something in German but it appeared that there were no German speakers among the entire trainload. They asked him to speak in French, but it took a long time for him to realise, although he seemed to be fluent in it. What he did say was that the bus was coming sometime.
I was sort of worried, but it seemed there were a lot of us, probably 50 or 60, all in the same boat, so at least I wasn’t alone, although I did wonder if I was going to get home before the morning. People were getting angry, people who had connecting trains, mostly from Neuchatel. There was an old lady going to Chaux-de-Fonds who was going to miss the last train and people going off in various directions, so me, only missing one train, seemed to be one of the lucky ones.
Then the bus turned up. A double-decked crimson coach. A lot of people got on the front doors, but soon stopped moving. When I went to the middle doors, I discovered that was because the seats were full and people were queueing up in the aisle instead of going upstairs. I went upstairs and was amazed to find no one sitting at the front, so obviously, I sat there.
That thing was scary. Its lights seemed to do nothing and it was hurtling along these narrow country lanes in almost complete blackness. Then it put its main beams on and they were incredible. Lit up the world for miles around. The driver kept speaking to us and I couldn’t figure out whether he was Francophone or Germanophone because he seemed to have trouble with both. He just kept on apologising and saying he hoped we would come back on the trains.
At 10.35, I arrived at Kerzers. There was a train waiting there to take people to Ins, Marin and Neuchatel. Anyone else was staying on the bus and going on to Morat. I think I’m glad I had to get off the train, because I have no idea whether I would have ended up at Ins or Morat. I think you have to sit in the right half of the train and I don’t think I was. Never mind. I got a fun bus ride and got back to Neuchatel just after 11pm. I now know that if I decide to go on a trip after school, to make it somewhere a bit closer to Spiez and not to go via Bern, because they don’t seem to like sending people to Neuchatel at the best of times.

Switzerland 05-06: Gruyeres

This was the first Triplet trip since Chateau D’Oex. We left it a bit late in the afternoon and didn’t leave Neuchatel until around 2.30, I think. We got a spotty train to Fribourg, waited half an hour there, got a bus to Bulles, waited half an hour there, and got another bus to Gruyeres:
The Swiss believe in decorating their bus stations:


There was a flap and fuss over the lack of soap in the toilets at Fribourg, I think, and then Jemma wasn’t allowed to eat her sandwiches because of germs. I’m not entirely sure what happened. What I do know is that we nearly missed the bus to Gruyeres because Peedee was at the railway station buying a bottle of soap:
Gruyeres was beautiful. A little town set on top of a hill, surrounded by mountains.

This was the main road. And the only road. That’s about all there is to Gruyeres:
To the left there is a castle:
and to the right there is a church:
and beside the church is a sort of walkway, with incredible views. We sat there, ate our picnic and took lots of photos.

But then we had to go back. It was a two and a half hour journey each way and we stayed less than an hour and a half. We sat in the car park and waited for the last bus and I took photos.
There is nothing there. That is the reflection of the car park on a plain black poster.

Jemma and Peedee:
My foot:
We got our various buses and trains back home again and all was good because we hadn’t been out together for a long time.

Switzerland 05-06: Thun

My first trip in a very long time was to Thun. I went out one day, got on the first train out of Neuchatel, which happened to be to Bern and decided from Bern where to go to next. I have no idea why I chose Thun, but it was great. Well….

I read in the guidebook this paragraph:

“[Thun] has an odd secret, however. After World War II, the authorities decided that in the event of a future invasion, the whole of Switzerland south of Thun was to be abandoned, and the entire population was to assemble here for dispersal into mountain retreats. Switzerland’s largest hospital was hollowed out of Niesen, but despite constant upkeep, has never been used; it remains pristine and fully equipped, and there are probably dozens of other major military and civil emergency installations hidden in the mountains nearby.”

and immediately got it into my head that the world was going to end, right there in Thun, right then at that very moment. The second part of that was because of the massive black clouds that were coming over the mountain.
First, there was the bridge:
I was terrified of it, but at the same time I had to cross it.

I walked along the river, out to the lake, spotting fun things on my way.

Some sort of bike-train:
An interesting boat mooring:
Some graffiti:

This one helped my imagination along a bit.

A boat:
By the time I got to the lake, the sky was black:
It began to rain a tiny bit and I was sure I could see thunder and lightning. I didn’t like the idea of being effectively in the middle of nowhere, either in a storm, or at the end of the world, so I went back to the main town. I’m not sure what came over me at this point. Any sensible person would have gone straight back to the station. I went out into the town. It began to really rain and the English girl walked through the storm in nothing but a t-shirt. I was drenched. I was soaked. I was wearing a t-shirt! And it was wonderful. But it was also too wet for me to bothered to take many photos, so there is just one of the rain in Thun:

Now I had to go back to the station. I walked along the road, watching the buses go past, but not having any money to get on one. But never mind. I got back. I found out when my train was, but noticed that the second one to go, which was already sitting at the platform and had been for some time, was a double decker. What could I do? I got that one back to Bern:
And here is me, dripping wet, taking photos of myself in the glass panels: